The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. (Psalm 19:8a NIV)
Most people’s happiness usually depends on their circumstances. I’m happy when I’m healthy, my job pays well, and my relationships are fulfilling. But when my life isn’t going as planned, then I’m unhappy. What if we could live above our circumstances? That’s where joy enters the picture.
While our happiness often depends on our circumstances, true joy transcends our circumstances. Most of us don’t put the concept of happiness and a visit to the dentist in the same sentence. We go to the dentist because we know that the long-term benefit is worth the short-term discomfort. Similarly, we can experience joy in the most challenging situations even though we certainly wouldn’t say that we’re happy.
In Psalm 19:8 David writes, “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.” God’s precepts, the directives He has given us in the Bible, lead to joy in at least two ways. First, God’s way is “right,” which means that He knows what He’s doing when He tells us how to live our lives. When we live God’s way, our lives generally go better than when we ignore Him. Although obedience to God’s precepts doesn’t guarantee that we won’t face challenges, we’re ultimately better off when we obey God.
The second way in which the Scriptures lead to joy is that they point us to the God who transcends our circumstances and who promises to be with us even in the midst of difficulties. Jesus gives us the greatest example of experiencing joy in spite of circumstances.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)
Jesus knew joy in spite of the most horrific circumstances. Why? Because He focused on the One who transcends our earthly existence. Similarly, when we “fix our eyes on Jesus,” we “will not grow weary and lose heart” in spite of the challenges we face.
How do we fix our eyes on Jesus? One key way is by spending time reading, studying, and meditating on His Word.
Take some time today to read and pray through Hebrews 12:1-3. Jesus found joy even when He was being crucified, not because He was happy about it, but because His purpose transcended His circumstances. He wasn’t seeking His own happiness; He was seeking our salvation. As you meditate on this passage, ask God to give you a greater appreciation for what Jesus did for you; and ask Him to give you a joy that transcends your circumstances.
What passages of Scripture have helped you to find joy in the midst of difficult circumstances?